herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Dan White: We'll never get our cash back, but strip Seanie of every cent

Anglo Irish Bank, the disgraced lender which was nationalised in January 2009, this week begins High Court proceedings to recover €70.4m owed by its former chairman Sean FitzPatrick.

Anglo is also pursuing its former chief executive David Drumm for €8.3m of unpaid loans.

FitzPatrick and Drumm were forced to quit in December 2008 when it emerged that FitzPatrick had concealed loans of up to €129m which he had received from Anglo from the bank's shareholders and regulators for at least seven years.



ANIMAL

The disclosure of the concealed loans destroyed whatever was left of Anglo's tattered credibility and forced the government to nationalise it the following month.

The Government has since had to pump €4bn of fresh capital into Anglo with most analysts now reckoning that the final cost to the taxpayer could well top €12bn.

With €32bn of bad loans, almost half of its total loan book, now destined for NAMA, it is clear that FitzPatrick and Drumm's Anglo was the banking equivalent of Animal House.

While all of us taxpayers who have had to fork out enormous amounts, with the prospect of much more to come, to bail out Anglo can take a certain grim satisfaction from the news that the bank is finally about to take the gloves off in its dealings with Seanie, the bad news is that the best that Anglo can hope for is to get back a few cent in the euro of the outstanding loans.

FitzPatrick owed Anglo €106.5m at the end of March 2009, according to the bank's published accounts.

Since then he is understood to have repaid about €20m from the sale of property and other assets.

He also, along with fellow former Anglo director Lar Bradshaw, owes Anglo €32m which is secured against a Nigerian oil field. FitzPatrick and Bradshaw are currently trying to sell this oil field and the €32m loan, of which FitzPatrick's share is €16m, is not covered by yesterday's legal action.

In practice the best that Anglo can probably hope for is to get back most of the €32m which it lent FitzPatrick and Bradshaw for the Nigerian venture. If it does then it would have recovered about €36m from Fitzpatrick, just over a third of the €106.5m which it is owed.

And what about the remaining €70.4m? I wouldn't hold out too much hope.

Apparently €67m of this figure was secured on FitzPatrick's 4.5 million Anglo shares. These Anglo shares, which were worth over €60m at the May 2007 peak, are now worthless. This means that any loans secured against them are extremely unlikely ever to be repaid.

As a result the taxpayer is likely to left picking up the tab for Anglo's irresponsible lending to its former chairman.

So is there anything that can be done to pursue FitzPatrick for what is after all our money?

Even if he cannot repay these loans in full it is vital that Anglo chases him for every possible penny.



roof

While the courts rightly insist that we are all, no matter how broke, entitled to a roof over our heads, in FitzPatrick's case that doesn't have to be his palatial Greystones pad. I'm sure that NAMA could put him up in a perfectly adequate three-bedroomed starter home somewhere in a ghost estate in Ballygobackwards.

Likewise, given the cost to the taxpayer of his utterly reckless stewardship of Anglo, the bank should be pursuing FitzPatrick for his pension and any other personal assets such as holiday homes.

It is only by publicly stripping FitzPatrick of every penny he possesses and reducing him to abject poverty that the justifiable public outrage at what he did at Anglo can be eased.

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